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Royal New Zealand Air Force



To understand properly the part which the RNZAF was to play in the Pacific war it is necessary to have some idea of the higher organisation of the American forces in the area. The following chart shows the chain of command:

Until 1945 the RNZAF did not act as a strategic or tactical force with a specific task to perform. Individual squadrons in the page 135 forward area were controlled for operations by the local American commanders of the areas in which they were stationed. At the same time administrative control was exercised by Air Department through the group organisation which was eventually established by the RNZAF in the Pacific. The Group retained indirect operational control of the New Zealand squadrons through COMAIRSOPAC, whose headquarters embraced the headquarters of No. 1 (Islands) Group.

The South Pacific contained three subdivisions: the Combat Area in which the Allied forces were in actual contact with the enemy; the Forward Area which, although not in contact with the enemy, might be liable to attack, and which was organised for defence and for supporting operations in the Combat Area; and the Rear Area. As the campaign moved north, so did the boundaries of the respective areas.

The main objectives in the American offensive up through the Solomons were taken by task forces specially organised for the purpose and disbanded after they had achieved their objects. Each task force was divided into task groups which were allotted specific duties in the campaign. Guadalcanal was captured and held by two task forces, Nos. 61 and 62. Another, Task Force 63, was responsible for air support and protection during the campaign, and it was to this force, commanded by COMAIRSOPAC, that the first RNZAF squadrons in the forward area were attached. Later, in May 1943, these task forces were dissolved, and Task Force 31 was formed to carry out the invasion of the central and northern Solomons, with Task Force 33 responsible for air support. During this campaign RNZAF squadrons operated with Task Force 33.

As the combat area moved northward the task forces and their reserves moved too, and local Island Air Commands took over complete control of all air operations in the areas they vacated. The duties of New Zealand and American squadrons stationed in these areas were limited to training, the local defence of bases, and the protection of shipping.